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Concerts: previews / reviews

389 posts in this topic

13 hours ago, JSngry said:

Copland...don't really like Copland, to be honest. Don't DISlike him, just find him kind of...pleasantly lacking. This piece was no exception. I mena, it was "good", and I did enjoy it, certainly won't shy away from exploring it in the future as opportunity arises. But...and it could have been played better, honestly. Might have been Reed Betrayal, and we've all been there, but...if you're playing a composed piece and you know what's coming and you know where trouble is starting to arise with your equipment, I think you ought to improvise a little and find a way to work around that. That might sound harsh, and maybe it is, I mean, hell, this is live music and sometimes shit happens that you just cannot control. But anyway, pleasant but not really satisfying performance on the Copland.

 

Mahler, though, holy shit, what kind of extended paen to angst is THIS? Holy shit, brother murders brother, dead brothers murdered bone gets turned into a despairing flue, nobody lives happily ever after, hell, nobody even lears a tragic lesson, even the castle collapses. This is not what we as Abrahamic cultures come to expect, we expect at least some level of justice, or redemption, or lesson, but no, not hear, what happens here is simple - everybody dies and then they're dead. Period, end of story.

I intentionally avoided doing advance review of this one because I knew it was highly vocal and I knew there would be subtitles. I wanted to experience it "cold". So, yes, this story keeps unfolding, and there's a frigid kind to be warmed, a lovely flower in the woods, and a pure-hearted soul who's murdered by his brother, where is there NOT redemption to be had in this setup?

But no, BOOM! Castle collapses on everybody and that is that. I was more than a little taken aback.

And not least of all because the music was so freakin'   brilliantly composed and executed. Lord have mercy, van Zweden can do Mahler, and he's gotten his band (and last night, the chorus and soloists) to do it just the way he wants it. I've come to really dig Mahler once I got past past memories of Leoanrd Bernstein's Columbia/NYPO recordings, it's not all special effects boombahCRASH, there's meat there, and no need to hurry either. This was a magnificent performance and, given the story it told, a certainly unexpected one!

Driving music to and from was the new Henry Threadgill Pi album. The Copland paled as a folloup to it, but leaving the hall after that Mahler thing, it seemed like a great wave to get on to keep on going. So, yeah, Threadgill, Mahler, van Zweden, great night.

 

If you don't respond to Appalachian Spring, then Copland probably is not for you. Other Copland works I like a lot are the Emily Dickinson Songs and the Eight American Songs (as sung by William Warfield). In a "tougher" vein, the Piano Variations and the Piano Fantasy. Quiet City is tasty too.

 

 

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Monteverdi Vespers (Beverley Minster, Yorkshire)

University of York Chamber Choir Compagnia d’ Istrumenti, University of York Baroque Ensemble

Beautiful concert of one of my favourite early music pieces (well, it's early for me!). Famously lacking a definitive score, this performance aimed to be close to how it might be imagined Monteverdi would have presented it. 

Very small orchestra of baroque era instruments. A bit of a shock at the start as they didn't immediately cut through the choir - the wonderful fanfare amidst the full choir at the start that you usually hear on bright, high-wire trumpets* was played by the cornetts, a far darker, almost nasal sound. Over time ears adjusted. 

You got a real sense of just how varied this piece is - full on choir, passages for solo or two or three voices, Gregorian chant; and then different instrumental groupings highlighted in different sections - cornetts came into their own in a couple of later sections. Good use of the cathedral acoustics too with both singers and instruments detached at a couple of points to provide echo effects. On record the highlight for me has always been the Sancta Maria section which I'm used to as a solo voice; here half a dozen female voices were used (the singers were students rather than professionals so I suspect it might have been a bit too exposed for an individual).  

* Gianluigi Trovesi has borrowed this passage several times in his jazz pieces. 

Three_cornetts.jpg

Cornetts...never seen one before last night. The players seemed to have 2 or 3, presumably for different keys. 

Part of the Beverley Early Music Festival. I've only just latched on to the York area as a hotbed of Early/Renaissance/Baroque music - there's an early music centre there. They have a main festival in July - I'm going to hear Purcell's 'The Fairy Queen' and a 17thC arrangement of 'The Tempest' there in six weeks. They also do a Xmas Festival which I'll watch out for this year.  

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Last night:

 

Quote

Jaap van Zweden conducts
Louis Lortie piano
Stefan Engels organ

TAO Alice [World Premiere]

SAINT-SAENS Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian)

SAINT-SAENS Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony)

Two very different composers, and, really, three different "styles" of composition.

First, the Tao, commissioned by the DSO by Artist-In-Residence Conrad Tao. What a delightful surprise! The composer's notes say that it's based on a pshycologica phenomenon known as "Alice In Wonderland syndrome, where a person experiences periods of sudden random perceptual disruptions that come and go without warning, and without ever totally abandoning the "normal" reality. I'm paraphrasing from  memory, and probably not getting it nearly right enough.

Anyway, the thing started out like it was going to be some minimalist wanka-dank but very quickly proved otherwise, and fragments began being tossed about from section to section without disrupting the basic underpinning, which itself was evolving at a different pace, if not necessarily a changing tempo. And sometimes it all went vice-versey. The thing that came to mind was a quantum baseball analogy which may or may not make any sense - following everything that was going on and trying to do so while it was happening seemed like it would be like studying the spin on a 90 MPH fastball while simultaneously trying to read the spin on the grounder that was zooming you way after it had been hit, studying both at the same time, having to make both decisions concurrently. It was deeply engaging, to put it mildly!

The orchestra was also obviously engaged as was van Zweden. Certainly not a careful, too-timid attempt to give a new piece a "correct" reading. The spirit was there, and even when in the middle of the piece the tempo and dynamics both dropped without any readily apparent reason, the momentum was not lost, and soon enough the change justified itself, as new directions began which eventually evolved back into the original material's particulars.

Quite a fun ride, hope this piece gains traction and gets performed past it's premiers here. It's a good'un!

Saint-Saens I admit to being only casually familiar, and really had no idea what to expect. The first piece...it seemed to be a bit ripe, episodic, slight even perhaps, and I was worried about getting a mouthful of French Tchaikovski as filtered through the melodic mundanity of the worst of Mozart, it kept feeling like it was going to happen at any second, and I was ready to cringe when it did,

Funny thing, though, it never happened like that. For that I have to credit the composition, which was more deeply constructed than it let on that it was going to be, the conductor, whose famed "micro-management" was clearly on display here, (no phrase was stated with creating a meaning relevant to what came before it (and the corollary to that, without giving the next one something to meaningfully bump up against)), and the players, both the orchestra, which has really got the whole micro-dynamics and breathing thing down, and also Louis Lortie, who interpreted the paiano part exquisitely, never succumbing to some pretty obvious built-in temptations to sweetness, obvious virtuostic tricks, and all other manners of crowd pleasing. The guy played the shit out of it, but it never came out as being about him, it was all about the music. Love it when that happens.

Finally, the Organ Symphony, which if you believe the local reviews, went through a lot of interpretation adjustments between Friday and Saturday. I don't know about that, I was just there for Saturday, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I contained many/most of the same melodic esthetics as did the Piano concerto, which I suppose is only natural, but the harmonic palate used was considerably deeper and darker, and of course, there is an organ in the mix now, so...bass notes in your body rather than just in your ears. I really can't say much past that it was a real delight, and again, the band played their ass off.

This was the last show of the 2015-16 DSO season, and we have already renewed for the next. This band is too good (and the repertoire too varied) to let it go. Serious fun!

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Sounds like fun. Never heard of Tao. 

Saint-Saens has always been one of my blind spots (the mists that descend in the mid-19thC Romantic era) but I've been giving him the odd listen in recent years, most successfully with a CD of chamber music. Will achieve breakthrough at some point.

It does sound like you get a good, varied mix at your local. Regional orchestras in Britain tend to be much safer - you have to travel to Birmingham, Manchester, London for the more unfamiliar most of the time.  

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Yeah, like I said, I was poised to go off on Saint-Saens, it seemed inevitable that the foo-foo line would be finally and permanently crossed, but it never happened. Nobody was a suspired about that as me. But hey, when it's good, let it be good and enjoy it for being good.

The DSO has long been a "regional" orchestra, but I think the current regime is making a concerted effort to have them perceived as more of a "national" orchestra in terms od both perception and ability. Perception is not something I have any idea about, but as far as ability....they're getting there, if they're not already. This is not the DSO of yore, these guys are dedicated to brining it, and bring it they do.

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Jim, I always enjoy the enthusiasm in your classical concert reviews. I enjoy the points you make, but the enthusiasm is what I enjoy most.

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It's fun, man. Ultimately, it's a thing I know something about - cats being in a band that rehearses and then goes out to play gigs. Serious cats who are serious about the music, serious gigs. There's passion and intensity and all that good stuff, but as with any good gig, when the band leaves nothing behind, when they go all in and bring it (what's the expression now, keeping it a hundred?), I get the same feeling from this as I do when any musicians do that. A good solid HELL YEAH!!!

It's fun. It's great music of a spectrum that I only marginally know, and they generally play the hell out of it. How do you NOT have fun getting up in the middle of all that?

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Unfortunately, enthusiasm and a sense of fun are things that people tend to lose as they get older. You obviously haven't lost either, so good for you!

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19 hours ago, JSngry said:

Yeah, like I said, I was poised to go off on Saint-Saens, it seemed inevitable that the foo-foo line would be finally and permanently crossed, but it never happened. Nobody was a suspired about that as me. But hey, when it's good, let it be good and enjoy it for being good.

The DSO has long been a "regional" orchestra, but I think the current regime is making a concerted effort to have them perceived as more of a "national" orchestra in terms od both perception and ability. Perception is not something I have any idea about, but as far as ability....they're getting there, if they're not already. This is not the DSO of yore, these guys are dedicated to brining it, and bring it they do.

I tend to work on the premise that composers who have earned a regular place in performance (and/or recording) have something there to enjoy; if I don't hear it it's because I'm not in tune or lack the context to make sense of the music. No point going off on the composer. Doesn't mean I'll ever be in tune or that I feel I have to get in tune - there's more good music out there than I could listen to in a thousand lifetimes; so leaving to one side the music that doesn't click is no huge loss.

I suspect your Dallas Orchestra probably is along the lines of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra or the Halle here. Nottingham and Sheffield have amateur orchestras. Even someone like me who pays little attention to 'performance' can hear the difference there. I'll go and see them if the music played is right but you have to adjust your expectations. 

As for age and enthusiasm, I don't detect any diminution in myself yet (at 60). I don't get the sense of wide-eared wonder that I had as a 16 year old where everything was new and the scales (!) were constantly falling from my ears. But by keeping a balance of familiar and totally new I'm still thrilled by listening to music.

Case in point:

   The_Ring_Cycle_Opera_North_main.jpg

Das Rheingold (Nottingham Royal Concert Hall)

First night of the full Ring in Nottingham. Sung in German, a semi-staged performance.  The Orchestra on stage as if in a symphonic performance with the singers in front. A huge three part screen behind with the translation coming up and also brief descriptions of the unfolding tale - the production is very much aimed at the first timer as well as the listener who knows the piece. Very subtle imagery on the screens as the scenes move from the Rhine to Valhalla and then into the depths. 

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(more or less my view last night from the third tier though this looks like Leeds - Nottingham is a modern hall) 

Utterly compelling music I 'know' reasonably well (I've been through it 7 or 8 times on record/DVD) but once again the total focus of a live performance delivers so much more. There were six or seven points when I had tears welling up and that was the music rather than anything in the drama. Really conscious of the way Wagner manipulates his themes - just a slight twist of rhythm or harmony giving a change in atmosphere. The use of the renunciation of love theme is wonderful - used fairly obviously when Albrecht renounces love to gain The Ring but also behind others when the temptations of power are leading them to forsake their personal loyalties. Never noticed before how the Rhinemaidens music mutates into the Valhalla theme in the first major scene change. Very taken by the whole dramatisation of the lust for power throughout - it's easy to see why this lends itself to a Marxist interpretation. Could easily be recast with the players in the current British EU referendum campaign taking centre stage! 

You also realise just why this piece got such a grip on the European (and beyond) imagination in the late 19th/early 20thC. 

 Very good programme too - expensive (£15) but a hard bound 100 page + book of essays, summaries etc. 

Needless to say, the audience went nuts. 

Die Walkure this afternoon/evening. Only problem is that we're in a mini-heat wave!  

********************************

Background piece on the production here:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/may/27/ring-the-changes-my-asuterity-wagner-with-opera-north

I especially like this: 

"I’m especially proud of the fact that almost 75% of our audience said they were experiencing The Ring for the first time. That’s partly due to the fact that we were able to keep ticket prices well below what you’d expect to pay for a conventional staging. We have been able to show that The Ring is not as intimidating as many people think. Anyone who loves The Lord of the Rings will recognise its landscape. When I first started working on Wagner’s cycle I was reading the Harry Potterbooks to my six-year-old son. Both demonstrate the power of storytelling within a world of magic and monsters, in which there’s a struggle between good and evil. Richard Farnes, Conductor"

 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Die Walkure  (Nottingham Royal Concert Hall)

Overwhelming. Four hours of generally slow music (give or take a couple of hyperactive Valkyrie episodes); the way the music constantly unfolds generating new melodic lines (or introducing a previously heard motif) is astonishing. So many high points with that tingle factor; but the one that had me holding back the blubbing was the huge climax just before Brunhilde gets ungodded. Richard Strauss mined that section again and again.  

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Boy, you step away for a few weeks and come back to find Peter Cropper in the round (in spirit), cornetts in cathedrals, reading the seams on fastballs and Wagner's Ring cycle in concert setting! <----- That last one sounds amazing. They all sound pretty amazing. I get more from the reviews by you guys than I do from the more rigid assessments in the funny pages. ... Not to mention, there's basically a handful of folks sharing their experiences in here, yet the variety of music touched on is pretty broad.  

Nothing really going on in these parts lately ... Sarasota Music Festival coming up fast (student festival in the mould of Aspen) ... although I did recently stumble across a Bach festival in Winter Park (Orlando) that apparently has quite a heritage, having been around since 1935. So, that's something I'll be paying attention to going forward.  

 

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Bev, I was nosing around looking at where those Ring cycles were being performed and somehow stumbled on this blog, From the Sound Up, one person's impressions of various concert halls around Europe and the UK. One of the concert halls where the cycle is being performed is (was) Leeds Town Hall, which this guy loved. (If you hit the "index" link you can find it. 

Jim, this passage from the above writeup on Leeds might be of interest: 

"My colleague at Arup Tateo Nakajima recently pointed out to me that Mahler poses an acoustical challenge because despite the large orchestral forces, many passages are chamber-scaled, requiring conversations between individual instruments often situated across the stage from each other. The vastness and intimacy are difficult to accommodate within one acoustical room response."

 

Be interested to know how this might dovetail (or not) with your experience.

 

 

Edited by papsrus

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If we're talking about Das klagende Lied, there was no problem with onstage balances, but it should also be noted that apparently this piece was originally written to include offstage orchestral passages as well, which are generally not performed as such. Here, they were, and to no small dramatic effect. We've gotten this a few times before with the DSO at the Meyerson, offsage choruses, soloists, ensembles, in this case full sections. The hall is built to accommodate this, and it does it well. In this case, there was an offstage orchestra playing what was, in the story, the wedding ball, contrasting with the ominous rumbling of the forthcoming collapse being portrayed by the onstage orchestra. Quite grabbing!

If we're talking Mahler orchestral pieces in general, all I can say is that van Sveden has developed quite the reputation for his "micro-managing" attention to every possible detail, so in all the Mahler I've heard him conduct, I never noticed any "difficulty" in balance, just some pretty stark contrasts fully heard, so...mission accomplished, I suppose.

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1 hour ago, papsrus said:

Bev, I was nosing around looking at where those Ring cycles were being performed and somehow stumbled on this blog, From the Sound up, one person's impressions of various concert halls around Europe and the UK. One of the concert halls where the cycle is being performed is (was) Leeds Town Hall, which this guy loved. (If you hit the "index" link you can find it. 

Opera North are based in Leeds where they have an opera house; they sometimes use the Town Hall for bigger things. This Ring cycle was developed over four years, one opera per year - I saw 'Gotterdammerung' there in 2014. Nice old Victorian place. This year they are doing all four, similar to how Wagner programmed them in 1876 (according to the programme his original intention was to burn down the Festspielhaus afterwards and destroy the scores! He'd have got on well with some of the more Maoist European free improvisers of the 60s who saw music only counting in the moment and rejected recording!).

They regularly take their programmes to Nottingham, Gateshead and Salford (near Manchester). This year they are going to London too. Apparently the Leeds performance was filmed for online streaming - when I was in London last week I saw an add for cinema screenings of the cycle.

**********************

Interesting to see your point about the chamber scale nature of much of Mahler; the programme makes much the same point about The Ring, pointing out that Wagner's reputation as bombastic is quite undeserved (I'd say Mahler (and Shostakovich!!!!!) suffer from a similar misapprehension). Die Walkure in particular has a luminous score where the separate instruments or sections are able to project individually - some of the string writing in Act I is utterly delicious right down to solo cello. 

Usually the orchestra is hidden from view (certainly Wagner's intention) but I really like having it on stage. I'm not sure if it's the balance or just the visual clues but I found myself listening to the orchestra much more than on CD or DVD where the focus tends to be the singers and drama.    

Siegfried tomorrow. 

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Siegfried  (Nottingham Royal Concert Hall)

Act I is the part of The Ring I find most troublesome. For most of its length a scheming villain and a not very bright boy bicker at one another whilst recapping earlier events. It's also the point where Wagner's anti-Semitism come closest to breaking out openly - Siegfried's invective against Mimi could come from the pages of "Die Stürmer". Fortunately there's plenty going on in the orchestra to keep the interest up and it says much for this performance that I didn't feel the act drag as it often seems to. 

Act II has some magnificent music, in particular the nature music of the 'Forest Murmurs' with beautiful woodwind. The Woodbird was positioned in a side balcony overlooking the stage, again giving some visual drama to a largely static performance. 

Act III is an embarrassment of riches. The reappearance of Erda at the start with the very distinctive, eerie rising/falling mysterious chord sequence that characterises her message of doom shifts the whole mood (as also happens at the end of Das Rhinegold). But the absolute peak - I'd place it up there as one of the most ecstatic moments of all music (well, the parts of all music I've heard) - is the Brunnhilde awakening scene. An utterly glorious chord sequence ending in a gorgeous chromatic descent (anticipated on its own in the transition from the previous scene a few minutes earlier). The latter really interests me as it's clearly the root of much of Mahler's late music, especially the strained strings of the first movement of the 10th Symphony.  I defy anyone to hear this awakening scene and not be reduced to a puddle.

As throughout, acting is completely minimalist in this production. Dress occasionally hints at character but in general its standard evening wear (well, not what I'd wear in the evening!). No props whatsoever - no swords, spears, rings or tarnhelms. Everything communicated through restrained gestures.

It's really made me rethink the idea of the staged performance of operas. I've never even thought of attending them at things like the Proms. But after experiencing this and a Handel opera earlier in the year I'm now convinced.

Day off today to listen to Herman's Hermits and Lulu records.     

******************************

Two days later:

Gotterdammerung  (Nottingham Royal Concert Hall)

About as an emotionally overwhelming a performance as I've ever heard. By Gotterdammerung the musical themes have been multiplying, spinning off variants, linking and separating for over ten hours so there is a vast reservoir for Wagner to draw on. It's hard to convey the impact of that without going through the process. So many highlights - the recapitulation of the Brunnhilde awakening music both in the instrumental opening and again when Siegfried realises what's been going on after being stabbed; the dark music that surrounds Hagen and Alberich; the return of The Rheinmaidens and their nature music but transformed harmonically into something even richer; the joyous instrumental Rhine Journey and stark Funeral March; Brunnhilde's noble rage after Siegfried'd body is returned. But absolutely nothing I know in music compares to that last thirty minutes or so with Brunhilde centre stage calling time on the gods and the leitmotives swirling over one another in an endless flood, the Rhine music from the start of the cycle regaining ascendancy. I was blubbing throughout....rather embarrassing actually! 

Two themes really get me there. There's a rising sequence then mirrored by a falling one that have been labelled 'Erda' and 'Twilight of the Gods' that you first hear quite mysteriously when Erda (the earth goddess) appears in Das Rheingold. It appears at various points in a faster version at several points always giving a sense of things rushing towards a fatal outcome. Here at the end it blends in with the Rhine music and a beautiful, almost Hollywood, melody referred to as the Redemption theme that ends the piece with a sense of renewed hope. 

Audience when completely bananas. The piece is amazing enough for a listener - what it must be to experience it as a player (unless you hate Wagner!). They get a day off today and then start again tomorrow in Salford! 

Each ticket cost me £19 - I paid twice that for Tristan in London at the end of the month. I hope the success of this production (and although Nottingham was 7/8th full, elsewhere its seems sold out) encourages more of this type of production. Probably the biggest difficulty with longer operas is the need to start early - 3.00 pm in Nottingham (later performances start at 4.30). Meant that the audience were largely pensioners, a scattering of student-age listeners with perhaps only working people with some control over their time being able to make the three big ones. Not sure how you get past that.   

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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ENO-Tristan-and-Isolde-Act-1-Karen-Cargi

Tristan and Isolde at London Coliseum (English National Opera)

Glad to have finally seen this - the first full opera I ever had on LP. Orchestra was fine but the production highly eccentric. Vivienne Westwood supporting characters and then a scene out of Shogun in Act I. I spent most of the love scene in Act II worrying that the rather well built Isolde would fall over the rocks as the two lovers moved around a treacherous stage set:

    40800-eno-tristan-and-isolde-stuart-skel

Acting was wooden (hardly surprising given that one false step would have turned everything to pantomime). And then when King Mark discovers them they were seized by an army of medical types in surgical scrubs who strapped them to hospital beds from where they sang for the rest of the act.

The opening of Act III has some of my favourite Wagner but again the production was distracting - Kurwenal was dressed like Eddie Izzard and kept running off stage for a step ladder to climb in order to look out for Isolde's ship, then fussily put it back.  

Not a patch on the Opera North Ring - the wisdom of stripping away most of the acting/scenery hazards in that production was brought home even more.

I'm no connoisseur of singing but I enjoyed Tristan, did not find Isolde easy on the ear.  

Still, enjoyed the music.  

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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The Fairy Queen - Purcell (Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Sir Jack Lyons Hall, University of York)

An absolute delight from start to finish. Another success for limited staging and modest forces - 14 musicians (though with TWO theorbos - who needs the Allman Brothers Band!), 13 singers (one also narrating). A piece I know fairly well from CD and DVD but once again, having the musicians in front of you the sheer variety of Purcell's orchestration becomes apparent. Especially taken by Bethany Seymour's singing. 

Rather than including the extended dialogue that appears on the William Christie DVD, brief pieces of narration were included to give a sense of the (rather wandering) tale (based on A Midsummer Night's Dream). Some genuinely funny comic moments. And a wonderful prologue, adapted from the original to include references to the pantomime that is British politics currently. 

Marvellous fun. More from the festival tonight.  

 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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The Tempest: A Dramatick Opera (Matthew Locke and others) - Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

 A mid-17thC adaptation of "The Tempest" (much excluded, new story lines added) with music by mainly Locke but also Banister, Hart, Humfrey, Hart Reggio (no, I don't know who they are either!) and one Purcell piece. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was actually a quintet - two violins, viola, cello and theorbo (with one violinist playing a little hurdy gurdy). All the drama played very entertainingly by just two actors, music largely incidental. Not a style I'm all that familiar with - early 17thC consort music - but very engaging. Some excellent singing especially by soprano Augusta Herbert.      

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Mark Elder conducts the Hallé Orchestra during Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Hector Berlioz - Overture 'King Lear' 

Colin Matthews - Berceuse for Dresden

Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde

(Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London - Leonard Elschenbroich cello, Alice Coote mezzo-soprano, Gregory Kunde tenor, Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder

I've never warmed to Berlioz and the overture didn't strike any sparks. Someone for the future, maybe.

Really enjoyed the Matthews premiere - a short memorial piece for cello and orchestra with a recording of the bells of the Frauenkirche in Dresden at start and finish. By chance I'd been listening to a fair bit of Matthews in previous week. A contemporary composer whose music is distinctly modern yet clearly part of the longer tradition. Neither 'look at me, I'm such a rebel' nor saccharine sweet like some of the more successful orchestral music being written today. 

The Mahler is a long-time favourite and once again the live experience brought out so many details that I'd only half noticed or not noticed at all. Got off to an awkward start when one of the horns badly fluffed the first note but that quickly passed. I'm no expert but I got the impression that this is not a piece the Halle play often - something just a little hesitant unlike the smooth unfolding you hear on recordings. But that was easy to put aside and just get lost in the music.

Especially enjoyed the misty second song from the first five. The symphony employs a huge orchestra yet, apart from at a few points, it is used with restraint, allowing all sorts of delicate textures to rise to the surface and be heard (people who claim Mahler as bombastic haven't listened properly). Very much the case in "Der Einsame im Herbst". 

Of course the killer is the final "Der Abschied". Especially noticeable last night were the gorgeous flute/oboe/clarinet arabesques in the first third that weave round the music and curl around the vocal line. Lots of hints at eastern scales but never so crude as to come across as tourist-orientalism. Never know how to describe the extraordinary orchestral passage 2/3rd through where an insistent rhythmic figure slowly builds to stunning climax. But the absolute magic moment came in the final 'ewig's with the orchestra drifting away as harps and celesta embroider around them. What I had never noticed before was the presence of three mandolins - they'd been sat there on stage for an hour and I never saw them until they became very audible at the end. Will have to listen out next time I play the CD.

Felt a bit sorry for the tenor - his three songs are also the loudest so he has to fight to be heard above the orchestra. Then he had to sit for thirty minutes whilst the mezzo took centre stage. Needless to say, that affected the apportioning of applause at the end.

Good to see Mark Elder when making the sections of the orchestra take their bows leave the podium, walk to the back of the stage and single out the flute, oboe and clarinet players. It must be a terrifying piece to play given how exposed those instrument are. I do like Elder - not for his stick waving skills but for his choice of repertoire and just being a good egg.    
 

Proper review here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/aug/17/halle-mark-elder-prom-41-review-mahler-berlioz-matthews

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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DSO season opened last night. We've subscribed to the whole season and are going tonight. Good to be getting back into that groove, the concert-attending thing. It's fun!

September 22-25 | 2016

Jaap van Zweden conducts
Simone Lamsma violin

BRAHMS

Violin Concerto

STRAVINSKY

The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps)

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Things kicking off in the old world too. My first for the autumn last night:

Image result for opera north der rosenkavalier

Der Rosenkavalier - Opera North, Leeds Grand Theatre

Easily my favourite opera - like a big box of chocolates with all soft centres. On the surface a mixture of love story and farce but with a deeply affecting meditation on the passing of time running through it - the different way it is perceived by the young (eternal) and the older (the thread visibly being seen to be running out). Strauss unspools endless melodic delights over the 3+ hours - no more so than in the Act II love duet and the trio/duet at the end of Act III where he demonstrates his ability to manipulate listeners' emotions to perfection. Real tear duct moments.

Good production set in the late 18thC as planned - not in 1930s Argentina or on some Mars space station. Though I suspect some enterprising producer is already planning a production with the appalling Baron Ochs dressed as Donald Trump. The similarities are uncanny.   

Proper (if somewhat 'darling') review of an earlier performance here:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/18/der-rosenkavalier-eloquently-staged-revival-belies-its-age

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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And this afternoon:

Image result for threepenny opera national theatre

Cinema broadcast of a current London production (the live broadcast went out to cinemas last week, this was a repeat). 

Another old favourite though very different (musically, politically and philosophically) to Der Rosenkavalier. A raw, savage production with minimalist staging largely made up of theatre props. Brilliant stage band - got the edge and sleaze of the music perfectly. Sung in English which took a bit of the shine off - English doesn't have the rasp of the German. But understandable given that the production aimed to be comprehensible to the unfamiliar as well as people who knew the score. Diction was good - because it's not sung in conventional opera-ese you don't lose lots of words because of the exaggerated vocal styling.

The language of the translation was deliberately coarse (fs and cs) - a number of the audience in the Sheffield cinema I was in left at the interval, unhappy with that. There was a health warning in the publicity.   

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On ‎9‎/‎23‎/‎2016 at 1:14 PM, JSngry said:

DSO season opened last night. We've subscribed to the whole season and are going tonight. Good to be getting back into that groove, the concert-attending thing. It's fun!

September 22-25 | 2016

Jaap van Zweden conducts
Simone Lamsma violin

BRAHMS

Violin Concerto

STRAVINSKY

The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps)

 

Left out of there Friday night looking for the right words, still looking. Suffice it to say, a pretty schizo program, with each half delivered without timidity or inappropriateness. We ahd heard Rite a few years ago as done by the Plano SO, and that was a treat, nicely played, but this was a top-shelf orchestra & conductor who was really inside the music. It's a piece I've come to know the innards of reasonably well via records (multi-plural!) but getting it right (no pun intended) in your face like this was really visceral, bloody, even. The dissonances still cut, the loudness still scares, when they happen at one...shivers, for real. And the quiet parts....you can't relax during the quiet parts...

I hope to live long enough to give Brahms the full due I think I need to give him. This guy...going along so normal fo soooo long, sleep is coming, and then, something happens, some weird chord, some neat turn of phrase, something...kind of stealth if you ask me, and I like stealth.

Anyway, a wonderfully energizing and invigorating evening of live music, and again, a privilege to have available about a half-hour drive's away at exceptionally reasonable prices.

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The Brahms VC is worth pursuing. I was relatively indifferent to Brahms until a chance hearing of it on the radio one morning. It suddenly clicked and unlocked the door into Brahms - I've been slowly learning to enjoy Brahms' other music since. 

The Rite of Spring was one of the first classical pieces I got to know - I knew it by reputation so wasn't particularly surprised by the aggression and irregular rhythms/accenting. What surprised me was how good the tunes were. It's not that far away from Petrushka.  

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